‘Community’ Recap: Regional Holiday Music

Community Christmas Taran Killam Glee ParodyS3E10: It’s hard to approach this recap because while I’m definitely in the boat of people who are just a few bits of sanity away holding a candle light vigil for Community. Yet, I really didn’t love this episode. Now, don’t get me wrong. It certainly ended on a sweet, satisfying moment that solidified just how much we’re going to miss our little Greendale family. And because of that, I’ll try my best to take some of that Christmas spirit and let it guide me to be a little sweeter even though there were moments of this episode that made me cringe.

”I’ll understand every scene because we’ll sing what we mean instead of making a face.” –Abed (singing)

While I don’t disagree with the criticisms this episode presents for its subject – Glee – I do disagree with a few of the ways the episode goes about it. First, let’s set the scene. The study group is in the cafeteria when the glee club comes in and starts singing terrible mashups of pop songs that should never be glee-ified. (I love that even Shirley vehemently hates the glee club.) Luckily, we’re saved from an unwelcome musical treat because ASCAP comes in and stops them from singing because of copyright laws. Thank God, because after hearing the songs that they came up with for the rest of the episode (Troy’s rap excluded) I was not all that impressed. Anyway, the notion that they can’t perform these songs at regionals lands the glee club in a mental hospital. This, of course, leads us into the point of the whole episode: glee absorbs the study group.

“That guy’s like human fro-yo.” –Troy

I couldn’t have said it better myself – and to Taran Killam’s credit, I don’t think anyone could have portrayed Mr. Rad(ison) quite as terrifyingly as he did. That being said, if I didn’t hate Glee’s Mr. Schue so fervently, I would have been really put off by this very basic caricature of him. He embarks on his sinister goal to get the entire study group in glee club (but Britta can play the silent tree) by ensnaring Abed with the idea that if the glee club’s Christmas pageant doesn’t happen, Christmas won’t happen. (Did anyone else notice the clay figures he had set up? That’s either creepy or a cute little homage to last year’s Christmas episode. Or both.) Abed’s great love of the season overtakes him and he joins the club as the signature Glee doo-wops bloop around in the background.

First he nabs Troy by suggesting that though he’s a Jehovah’s Witness, he can celebrate under the guise of “going behind enemy lines” to investigate the holiday. This leads to that rap – which was released earlier this week and may be my favorite part of the episode – and Donald Glover takes a backseat while Childish Gambino (Glover’s rap alter ego; Google it) takes over and just like that, Troy is taken. Then they take over the study room and turn it into a practice space. Using blatant nostalgic appeals to Pierce’s baby boomer demographic (and Troy’s hilarious Bob Dylan impression) they nab Pierce too.

”Look, eventually you hit a point of diminishing returns on the sexiness.” –Jeff

Next, they get Annie and she, in turn nabs Jeff with a “sexy” Betty Boop/Baby routine that honestly would not have been worth sitting through if it wasn’t for Jeff’s line at the end (see above). Yes, Glee over-sexualizes teenagers on occasion – and I’m the first one to point that out, among the series’ multitude of other flaws – but this version of the overall parody left a sour taste in my mouth. Though I’m sure it was really fun for Alison Brie to shoot the scene.

Finally, Pierce nabs Shirley with a gospel choir of young children singing about not being able to call Christmas Jesus’ birthday in school because of all the secular rules. Watching Shirley fight the urge to join the kids is probably one of my top five Shirley moments ever, but of course she eventually breaks and sings out the Lord’s name with the youngsters. This leaves Britta all alone, so she finds Jeff in the hall, but he turns around like a zombie from The Walking Dead, only instead of sunken eyes and festering wounds all over his body, he’s wearing a terrifying smile and a cardigan. Oh the horror!

”You do not get to call Britta the worst.” –Troy

Finally, it’s time for the Christmas pageant and everything’s going well – at least as well as the terrible original songs can go (and you can bet that, in and of itself, is also a dig at Glee’s little original songs stunt last season) – until Abed finds out the truth. Mr. Rad recruiting the group wasn’t about saving Christmas, it was about regionals. And if that wasn’t dastardly enough, Pierce’s welcome exclamations of “What the hell is regionals?” all episode certainly made sure we thought so.

Abed ruins the pageant by sending Britta out to sing “the song that’s in her heart,” which is basically a holiday version of her stoner pizza dance from the multiple timeline episode – but also a welcome respite from the lame holiday song that preceded it. This practically kills Mr. Rad, who all but admits he caused the first glee club’s bus crash and ran off, trying to feign that The Kings of Leon were there as a distraction – which was a bit of a cheap shot at the whole rivalry between the band and the Fox series. All this commotion temporarily ruins Christmas for Abed until the group comes to his door, singing Christmas carols and saying they want to spend the holiday together. They all gather in front of the TV together once more (just like they did last year and just like all their viewers were doing at that moment) to spend the holiday watching the Christmas specials on TV. And that last minute of the episode is why the whole thing worked.

I’m just as annoyed with Glee as the next person. It’s become lazy and it does put songs in place of actual dialogue or emotion, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It reminds me of the first documentary spoof Community did. Technically, it poked fun at the medium that many of the series’ Thursday night cohorts employ, but it was done so thoughtfully and carefully. It was done intelligently. This week’s episode, while parodying a show that is admittedly poorly-written most of the time and certainly doesn’t merit the praise of mockumentary shows like Parks and Recreation or The Office a few years ago, Community fans merit a better episode, better commentary, and better parody of the subject at hand. Luckily the episode landed on the right note, and that line, “We’ll see you after regionals,” was tinged with a little more sadness than it was likely originally intended due to the show’s circumstances. Plus, I have to admit, as half-assed as a lot of the parody bits were, the cast’s comedic timing and delivery always manage to make me laugh out loud. Who cares that the story was a bit weak this time around? It’s the last episode we have before the dreaded undetermined hiatus gets underway, and it’s Christmas. Let’s just cherish the episode for what it is – and I’ll try to ignore the weird dance moves Jeff was doing in that pageant.